The Gaming Den Forum Index The Gaming Den
Welcome to the Gaming Den.
 
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Google
 Search WWW   Search tgdmb.com 
Anatomy of Failure: Babylon 5 CCG

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Gaming Den Forum Index -> In My Humble Opinion...
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:28 am    Post subject: Anatomy of Failure: Babylon 5 CCG Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Sure, I'll give it a go.



The Babylon 5 CCG was put out by Precedence Entertainment. in 1997. The company folded five years later, after putting out a number of conspicuously worse games based on the Wheel of Time, Immortal: The Invisible War (an RPG that deserves its own review for sheer wtfery), fucking Rifts, and the Terminator movies. For Precedence, the B5CCG was as good as it got.

It was actually pretty good, but it did have some crazy bullshit in it.

Win Condition
The object of the game was... actually, that gets a little involved. The object was usually to achieve a Standard Victory, but things could happen that would require you to win a Major Victory instead. There were a very few things that handed those out directly by name, but most of the time you got them by accumulating a value called Power. A Standard Victory needed at least 20 Power and more Power than any other player. A Major Victory needed at least 20 Power and at least 10 more Power than any other player.

You generally got Power from two sources. First, you inherently had a value called Influence, which started at 4, and could be raised to 10 with minimal effort (so 10 Power was pretty much taken for granted) and higher mostly through the core gameplay. Second, you could have one Agenda card in play at a time, and many of them let you count something else as Power.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

I actually love that setup. You can support any kind of game state as advancing a victory condition. And they supported some fucking strange things.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

This leads into Bullshit #1: Stupid Agendas. Some Agendas were badly designed, and because the Agendas most directly interact with the win condition, they were much more obviously obnoxious than badly-designed cards in other categories. Some were unplayably bad, but those mostly just didn't show up unless someone was trying an experiment to see if there was any way they could be made to work. Some were a bit strong, but the multiplayer nature of the game mostly kept that in check (I think there was one that got errata early on because it ). No, the ones that pissed you off weren't too weak or too strong, they were negative play experiences.

Example:
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

This needs a little explanation. There were things that weren't players that also had influence scores, which got modified up and down by various card effects. Babylon 5 influence represented a combination of the actual physical defenses of the space station and also something like general faith in peaceful conflict resolution.

Each sentence of the rules text on this card has an issue, and they combine to create the actual problem: non-interactive victory.

The first sentence lets the owning player, once per turn, lower their own influence by 1 and raise Babylon 5 influence by 1. The trouble with that is that raising your own influence is trivial until you get to 10 influence so as long as your influence is 10 or lower to begin with, the cost is negligible. On the other hand, raising your influence higher than 10 (mostly) costs resources and effort and requires letting the other players interfere with you; it's the core gameplay that I'll get into later.

The second sentence gives you your win condition, but the problem is the amount of power it gives you. +20 power is an enormous amount, but more importantly, it's more than enough to win even if your influence is only 10 or even less. Which it will be, because you've been transferring it away every turn.

The result is a player who has almost no incentive to engage with the core gameplay. They don't need to gain influence, and they don't really even need to defend themselves from influence loss. They do power transfers and play the few cards that directly increase B5 influence, and they put an almost untouchable clock on every other player. You could win against an Alliance of Races deck, but you couldn't defeat it, because it wasn't even really playing the same game you were.

Alliance of Races meant that the Human faction won basically every sealed deck tournament, because it's a Human-only agenda and it was fixed in their starter deck (along with a couple of key B5 boosting cards). It was, in a single card, a more rapid and reliable win strategy than anyone else could reasonably put together out of a starter and a couple of boosters.

Here's the kicker, you couldn't even play Alliance of Races as a counter to Alliance of Races. Like, if you could, then you and the other AOR guy would wash on AOR power, and whoever had more influence would win, and you'd be back in an actual gameplay situation. But only a Human faction player could run AOR, and there was a maximum of one Human faction player per game. That's a thing I'll get into more in the next post, when we explore the much larger Bullshit #2: You Can't Play Your Deck.

edit: Misremembered the name of the company.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"


Last edited by angelfromanotherpin on Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
OgreBattle
Prince


Joined: 03 Sep 2011
Posts: 4775

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

so are agendas something you start with, or draw and play after conditions are met
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Red_Rob
Prince


Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 2540

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Both actually. Or rather either?

Babylon 5 was interesting in that you got to choose your opening hand. As it was a slower paced game and you mainly spent the early game setting up and getting to 10 influence there wasn't the capacity for rush decks like in MtG.

Your starting hand was only 4 cards, however you also started with your Ambassador in play. This meant you could start with an Agenda, another character, plus a deck-critical Event and Enhancement (Sorcery and Enchantment in MtG terms) to get your engine going.

Some decks had a single Agenda that they started with and rode to victory, whereas some decks used one Agenda to ramp up and then switched to a different one to go for the win. In later expansions they printed specific starting agendas that could be replaced without requiring a character to sponsor them.

Agendas were definitely an interesting way to support a variety of decks. Having your win conditions printed on cards meant that you could suddenly support whole alternative deck types without requiring any rewriting of the core rules.
_________________
Simplified Tome Armor. Tome item system and expanded Wish Economy rules.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Factions
The original release of the game had only four factions, based on four of the 'great powers' of the setting: Humans, Centauri, Minbari, and Narn. This, combined with some bizarre decisions from Precedence, led to some dreadful fuckery.

You see, a lot of games have faction mechanics, and most of them are sensible enough to allow for mirror matches. An L5R Crab deck can go up against another Crab deck no problem. A WOWTCG deck doesn't care if the opponent is also Alliance or also a Druid or whatever. But the Babylon 5 CCG specifically said that there could be only one player of each faction per game. In casual games that was rarely a problem, because you'd take turns or whatever. In tournaments, things were wackier and also shittier.

Let's say you show up for a tournament and there are 16 players: 2 Narn, 3 Minbari, 4 Centauri, and 7 Human. (Human was the most popular faction because most of the main characters on the show were human and also identity bias, and also Alliance of Races bias.) You get two tables with all four factions, three tables with three factions, and three players left over: one Centauri and two Humans. Even if you can get two of them to agree to a 2-player game, which the game really suffers for, you still have one guy left out. In short, if you didn't bring a backup deck belonging to an unpopular faction, there was an unacceptably high chance you would be SOL. That straight-up killed a lot of people's interest in the game.

Even if you could have played mirror match, it would have been a horrible gimping to both players. Almost every character was like an old-school MTG Legend, in that having one in play prevented anyone else from playing their copy, and also removing characters was hard, and also the character pools per faction (let alone per strategy) tended to be really small.

Now, they did add in more factions later, which helped a lot. Not only were there a lot more things to be your first choice, but there was a greater chance you'd have a second choice that was actually interesting to you. And the way tournaments worked, there was a significant incentive to play less-popular factions, because the 'finals' was a game between the top-ranked member of each faction in the tournament, so if you were the only person who showed up with e.g. a League of Non-Aligned Worlds deck, you were getting to the finals no matter what, and even if there were one or two others, you were facing a lot less competition than most other players.

But even when the game was at its maximum factions, you would still get people being told that they couldn't use their first choice of deck. And that was so obvious and egregious a mistake that I have no idea how it wasn't caught in playtesting, or just annihilated after it started causing problems on public release.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
FrankTrollman
Serious Badass


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 26685

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

INWO was another game that played around with cards that changed your win conditions. It sounds like it was handled a little better there, but it still suffered from goals that were way too fucking easy for certain decks.

It's a nice idea, and I like how it opens up deck building space to value completely different things. Unfortunately it is really hard to balance. And I have a sneaking suspicion that the concept inherently favors noninteractive decks. If your opponent may be going for a victory condition that values something surprising, your victory condition can't rely upon them having something normal. Which means that if your victory condition relies on collecting beans, your deck needs to bring all the beans. And you have no real incentive to interact with your opponent at all. You just collect beans from your hand. Like Turbo Gnomes in INWO.

-Frank
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I think more or less any game favors noninteractive play, to the extent that such play is viable. The problem comes when it reaches the critical threshold where it can goldfish to victory.

Most Agendas provided a much more manageable power bump, meaning you had to make up the difference in influence, which was mostly only available through interaction, and also subject to being lowered again by other players coming after you. Almost any Agenda was fine as long as the player had to get and keep his influence above 10 to win, or engage in bizarre shenanigans that involved interacting in some other way. As long as your hypothetical bean-counting Agenda was going to provide 9 power or less in any reasonable time-frame, it would probably have been fine as well. Support of the Mighty up there was very rarely granting more than 5 or 6, but got by because 'having a pile of beefy dudes' was good for more than just victory points.

It's worth noting that Alliance of Races wasn't overpowered in constructed play it put a clock on the game, but it was a mostly beatable clock. It was just very boring to play with or against.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ancient History
Invincible Overlord


Joined: 18 Aug 2010
Posts: 10730

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

angelfromanotherpin wrote:
I think more or less any game favors noninteractive play, to the extent that such play is viable. The problem comes when it reaches the critical threshold where it can goldfish to victory.

Eh. Consider Netrunner - which was very much a not-typical kind of CCG - the Runner cannot win without interacting with the Hacker; the Corp cannot win by interacting with the Hacker (except under rare circumstances). That was done to force a dynamic where the Corp player is on the defensive - and, to be fair, had all the advantages and disadvantages of defense. Netrunner is a very specific example of a game where the play dynamic was set up to deliberately necessitate the storyline dynamic. The Runner can't score any points unless they hack the Corp; left to its own devices the Corp will always win - it puts the impetus on the Runner to engage with the Corp, especially early on when the Corp has fewer defenses up.
_________________
The Unpublishable - Updates Fridays between midnight and midnight | http://wikithulhu.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
hogarth
Prince


Joined: 27 May 2009
Posts: 4443
Location: Toronto

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

angelfromanotherpin wrote:
The result is a player who has almost no incentive to engage with the core gameplay. They don't need to gain influence, and they don't really even need to defend themselves from influence loss. They do power transfers and play the few cards that directly increase B5 influence, and they put an almost untouchable clock on every other player. You could win against an Alliance of Races deck, but you couldn't defeat it, because it wasn't even really playing the same game you were.

Ah...memories of playing with the Gnomes of Zurich from the original Illuminati. Just wait until you have enough money and then declare victory!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
DSMatticus
Prince


Joined: 14 Apr 2011
Posts: 4788

PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
And I have a sneaking suspicion that the concept inherently favors noninteractive decks.

Almost tautologically so. The only difference between "oh, neat, I managed to encapsulate a win condition inside of a specific deck build instead of the game's general rules" and "oh, shit, I managed to encapsulate a win condition inside of a specific deck build instead of the game's general rules" is emphasis (and a bit of playtesting).
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Ice9
Duke


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 1508

PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

hogarth wrote:
Ah...memories of playing with the Gnomes of Zurich from the original Illuminati. Just wait until you have enough money and then declare victory!
I found that after a few games everybody would just fuck with the Gnome (and often UFO) player always, whether or not they appeared to be doing well. Which was kind of annoying itself, but did act as a sort of balance.

Last edited by Ice9 on Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:07 am; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
FrankTrollman
Serious Badass


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 26685

PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 7:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Shadowfist gives everyone feng shui sites and everyone has to seize feng shui sites from other players to win. Non-interactive decks don't exist. Literally every deck attacks the cards in play of the other players because it is hard wired into the game that you have to do that.

Then there is Vampire where your victory condition is running the person to your left out of mana. The fastest decks are bleed and weeny politics decks that interact with cards in play as little as possible and try to drain pools quickly while dodging interaction.

How interactive your game is is very much dependent on what the victory conditions are. And I strongly suspect that allowing decks to bring their own victory conditions encourages non-interaction.

-Frank
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Core Gameplay

The core gameplay is based on a mechanic called conflicts. This was slightly poor nomenclature, because Conflict was a card type (that started conflicts) but other card typess, mostly Agendas, could also start them. Not that confusing in practice, but a little awkward to explain to people.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

Almost all conflicts were announced during the Conflict step, which came after everything untapped and before anyone did anything else. There were a few cards which let you announce a conflict later in the turn, to try to sneak it through after everyone else's resources were busy, but they saw very little play, at least in my environment. With very few exceptions, it was one conflict per player per turn.

There were five stats in the game, Diplomacy, Intrigue, Psi, Leadership, and Military. That last one was only on fleets and planets, the other four went on characters.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

A conflict told you which stat (or stats) could be used in it. Parliament of Dreams makes a Diplomacy conflict, Knowledge is Power makes Intrigue conflicts, and some were nominally of one stat but allowed other stats as well. As the turn went on, you would tap your characters, fleets, and so on, to add their stats to the conflicts in play as either support or opposition, and at the end of the round you looked at the support/opposition balance to see what happened. Depending on the conflict, there were a lot of possible outcome states.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

Now, obviously, you were incentivized to specialize your deck in one stat. You didn't know what kind of conflicts your opponents were going to initiate, but you could control your own, so you tended to load a deck with a lot of one stat, and a lot of conflicts that used that stat. And that led to Bullshit #3: Two-Player is Awful.

If you weren't an Intrigue deck, you generally couldn't keep an Intrigue deck from passing its Intrigue conflicts (even if you might be able to keep its margin low), and so on. There were some ways to get your strong suit into other people's conflicts...
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)
...but those were stopgaps, good for delaying actions at best.

In a multiplayer set-up, two or more (e.g.) decks could often put together real opposition in another deck's specialty, from the incidental secondary stats that their characters had. It led to lots of decisions and negotiations and great gameplay moments. But in a two-player game, that all vanished and what was left was mostly deterministic and uninteresting. Also, without the ability to pigpile the leader, all but the top-tier Agendas became nonviable.

I think I played two-player B5CCG exactly once, but I saw quite a few discussions and decklists for two-player play, so some people were doing it, the unfortunates.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
DrPraetor
Knight-Baron


Joined: 02 Apr 2009
Posts: 768

PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2017 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The conflict resolution system looks dimly similar to the Battlestar Galactica boardgame (which isn't similar otherwise).

How many cards do you draw? 1/turn, refill your hand to a fixed size, some other mechanic...?
_________________

Chaosium rules are made of unicorn pubic hair and cancer. --AncientH
When you talk, all I can hear is "DunningKruger" over and over again like you were a god damn Pokemon. --Frank
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2017 1:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Under the first spoiler in core gameplay is an Agenda with the text 'Apply 7 Influence to...' Influence, in addition to supplying power, was the resource you 'applied' to play cards and fuel certain effects.

You got one free draw at the end of each turn, and could buy more by applying 3 influence per. IME, card play tended to be far more constrained by influence limits and the strategic situation than by limited draws. By the midgame, most people were sitting on a pretty hefty hand.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
DrPraetor
Knight-Baron


Joined: 02 Apr 2009
Posts: 768

PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2017 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ah, okay. So those two events effectively cost 4p (3p for the draw, +1p for the eye of Sauron in the corner?) - and Commander Ivanova costs... 6p (2 cards) + 6p (Sauron) + Xp (for whatever Susan Ivanova cost)?
_________________

Chaosium rules are made of unicorn pubic hair and cancer. --AncientH
When you talk, all I can hear is "DunningKruger" over and over again like you were a god damn Pokemon. --Frank
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I never thought of it like that, but I guess you could, except that you never actually paid the 6 cost printed on Commander Ivanova. Her 'must replace' text means she can only enter play if you have her earlier version (replacing it), and does so for no cost except the action it took to do so. I don't think anything actually referenced the costs of a character once they were in play, so that number could be anything from +/-infinity and it would still mean nothing.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
TheFlatline
Prince


Joined: 30 Apr 2010
Posts: 2531

PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I can't remember if I still have my Rifts decks or not. I might have given them away or tossed them finally a move or two ago.

If memory serves that game was bananas. It started out feeling kind of like a Magic ripoff and then escalated into glass cannon territory with gargantuan power curves that couldn't really be defended against well.

At least, that was what I got out of it from a couple starter decks.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

A lot of CCGs were bananas. It was a new medium in 1993, and very few people involved had any idea what they were doing for quite a while. The early Magic sets were crazy too. If nobody beats me to them, I'm going to get into the Star Trek and Star Wars games from Decipher, and how randumb those were when they first came out.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Expansions

The expansions for this game were meant to represent the advancement of the Babylon 5 narrative timeline, and they did a pretty good job of that. When the Premier set came out, most decks were doing the sorts of things that their faction was seen to be doing on the show in season 1, and as the expansions came out, there was support to make decks that did what the various factions were doing in progressive seasons.

The problem was that what one of the factions was doing in progressive seasons was losing. Bullshit #4: The Narn get the shaft.

The Narn spent Season 1 as the aggressive military power, season 2 getting conquered, and seasons 3-4 being an oppressed conquered power. I don't think they actually got any cards that encouraged them to be conquered, but what they got was a lot like no support at all. They did get a new subfaction representing the collaborator government, but that was a subpar Diplomacy deck, and they already had one of those that almost nobody used. Everybody else was getting dramatic new toys to play with, and the Narn were mostly stuck with the robust-but-uninteresting Military deck they'd had since the beginning of the game.

Bear with me here. One of my favorite mechanics in the game is the Interstellar Alliance. There's an event which forms the Interstellar Alliance if at least two players want in, it gives a bunch of benefits and restrictions to its members and generically makes it harder for people outside the Alliance to win. Also, members of the Alliance can pull certain ISA cards from outside the game instead of drawing. It was a real game-changer, but it disproportionately made things harder for Military decks, otherwise known as the viable Narn strategy.

Fuck, in an earlier set there was a whole subfaction of rogue telepaths that could theoretically go into any deck, but basically never went into a Narn deck because all their win conditions were based off the Psi stat, and all the Narn telepaths were wiped out a thousand years ago in-setting, so they don't have a single in-faction character with printed Psi. No native Psi, no reason to play the rogue teeps deck.

Precedence was seemingly no more able to print an expansion set that didn't make Narn players sad, than Wizards was able to print a supplement that didn't expand the Cleric spell list.

Actually, the same set that included the Interstellar Alliance also included some serious support for Narn decks, it's just that they had to give up being Narn decks. The Drakh were introduced as a faction that took over other factions. They were big and scary but they could only win through their own faction-specific win conditions, all of which were crazy hard and unusually baroque.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

And yeah, a lot of Drakh decks were built out of the Narn, just because the Narn didn't have a whole lot else to do. But you couldn't really call that a Narn deck, it basically had no Narn identity left to it.


I also want to talk about the game's last expansion: Crusade. Actually, let's make it official. Bullshit #5: Crusade is terrible.

Crusade came out before the license loss that ended the game's production and also Precendence as a company (they'd been so confident of renewal that when they got the news, the next set was at the printer's and the set after that was well into development). As a result, I don't think it had a particularly shorter development cycle than other sets, nor was it some sort of desperate attempt to milk the player base before they folded. I think it was just the result of some very bad ideas.

The big thing in Crusade were the crusade piles. A crusade pile was a essentially a supplemental deck you got in addition to your own deck. It had some harsh content restrictions, and you got one free draw from it a turn, and couldn't buy extra draws.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

The problem was that a crusade pile was an unmixed upside to your deck. If nothing else, it was an extra free draw every turn. There was no reason not to have a crusade pile, and so every deck, whether it wanted to or not, was on one of the four crusades. Most of the time, all it added was extra fiddling around to juuust enough benefit that you couldn't justify dropping it altogether (although a few decks got serious use out of them and became more dominant). They were boring and bad for the game and also part of every goddamn deck once they came out.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Red_Rob
Prince


Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 2540

PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2017 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

B5 the card game came out at pretty much the perfect time, in 1998 the show was still running and just coming of the high point of the Shadow War. Our group played the hell out of this, and for a long time it was pretty much our default game whenever 3 or more of us were together. This is despite the fact that our very first game of it ended in an unwinnable stalemate after one player started the Shadow War and neither player had any way to force a win.

The game definitely had a very clear downward trajectory after the first few expansions. The first two expansions, The Shadows and The Great War were pretty good. Nothing too earth shattering but expanded on the base set and added some viable deck types. The Great War introduced a new faction (The Non-Aligned Worlds) along with Home Faction ambassadors allowing multiple players of the same race. Psi Corps was more questionable, the focus on Psi didn't really work as it wasn't integrated into the initial factions. Too often Psi decks ended up playing their own game the other players couldn't interact with.

By the release of Severed Dreams cracks were showing, cards were becoming walls of text and the focus on new versions of characters matching the arcs in the show lead to characters like Emperor Mollari, who I refuse to believe ever actually saw play. Seriously, here is the flow of play that had to happen to actually play this card:

You start with your initial ambassador:



Then, you have to draw and play cards granting 3 Shadow Marks to him to be able to replace him with Lord Mollari:



Fine, fine, but then you have to draw and play Prime Minister Mollari (paying 14 influence for the privilege) which requires you to purge and destroy all those shadow cards you played to get Lord Mollari (As gaining Diplomacy for purging marks was the only reason to play the card):



So that THEN you can finally draw and play Emperor Mollari:



And what do you get for all your troubles? A character who is a few stat points better than a regular character in the basic set:



That was really emblematic of the problems with the later sets, they were so focussed on not just having things from the show, but having them happen in the exact order and flow that they happened there.

By the time it got to Wheel of Fire and the ISA our group had pretty much stopped playing. They had printed too many single-stat characters and double-influence agendas so that each player was practically playing their own game by that point. A shame, as early on B5 was some of the most fun we'd had with a CCG since Magic.
_________________
Simplified Tome Armor. Tome item system and expanded Wish Economy rules.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."


Last edited by Red_Rob on Mon Jan 23, 2017 1:35 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
angelfromanotherpin
King


Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 7097

PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2017 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I saw Emperor Mollari hit play fairly often, but never the full progression. The thing that was never properly supported was the Lord -> PM transition; those two cards never belonged in the same deck. If you were doing Centauri Shadows, you put in Lord Mollari and the progression stopped there. If you were doing Centauri Diplo or Intrigue, you skipped Lord and went straight to PM; 4 points of extra stats wasn't great for such an expensive replace, but it was frequently worth it for the heal+untap+untarget you got in addition. Then you dropped Emperor for a free replace, which was fucking awesome, and then you usually won the game in short order.

Emperor Mollari isn't just 'a few stat points better than' Turhan. He has two of the most significant abilities in the game. The text 'sponsor for free' not only waives the influence cost to play a card, it also waives having to rotate an inner circle character; it's the same with 'promote for free.' The turn Emperor Mollari enters play, every minister in your hand hits play, and then every minister you have in play (including the ones you had in play before) hits the inner circle, for no cost but the actions it takes to announce those things are happening. It's insane.

The ability to use a Standard Victory to win a Major Victory is arguably just as crazy. When it comes up, it's going to be like having +7-9 power printed on your ambassador.

Getting Emperor Mollari into play was kinda difficult, because getting PM into play was annoyingly expensive. But if you were going to PM anyway, going to Emperor paid you back several times over, often literally. People made the effort because it was totally worth it.
_________________
"Now that we've determined that up to π angels can dance on the head of a pin, how do we determine the specific number (or fraction) of angels dancing?"
"What if angels from another pin engage them in melee combat?"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Red_Rob
Prince


Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 2540

PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ah, I suppose I could see using the PM as just a stepping stone to the Emperor. As I said we had basically stopped playing by the point Severed Dreams came along, and we never saw the PM see play prior to that. Having a further extension to Londo just seemed emblematic of the hole the game was disappearing into.

The point about the character progression mechanic still stands though. The way Precedence chose to represent the character arcs in the show was through a series of ever more convoluted character upgrades and replacements that rigidly stuck to the situations and outcomes shown in the show. Before he can become Prime Minister Londo has to both side with and then reject the Shadows because that's what happened in the show. It was 2 years before they experimented with non-canon interpretations of characters like G'kar Forsaken and that was too little too late. It just seemed at odds with the otherwise fairly free-form approach the game took to representing the B5 universe. Maybe in your game the Narn would go to war with the humans, maybe the Humans would then ally with the Shadows. Maybe Bester leads Psi Corp to a total takeover of humanity. In the midst of this, why restrict the characters to playing out the arcs you saw on the show?

One thing that struck our group is how Precedence didn't seem to know how their own game worked. Conflicts were a case in point. There were conflicts that did a whole host of things, but the only ones that got played were the ones that gained you influence. You wanted to win the game and (usually) got one conflict per turn, so any turn you weren't gaining influence was a turn you were durdling and falling behind. Spending a conflict to damage an enemy fleet or demote an inner circle character or some crap was pointless, yet they were still printing conflicts like this in the last expansion.
_________________
Simplified Tome Armor. Tome item system and expanded Wish Economy rules.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Chamomile
Prince


Joined: 03 May 2011
Posts: 3718

PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Red_Rob wrote:
Before he can become Prime Minister Londo has to both side with and then reject the Shadows because that's what happened in the show.


The card text on the image says Prime Minister can replace Lord or Londo Mollari. Siding with the Shadows is optional if you're only using Prime Minister as a stepping stone to Emperor Mollari and thus don't care if Prime Minister is weak without any shadow marks to purge.
_________________
I have a blog
Also a Discord channel
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Red_Rob
Prince


Joined: 17 Jul 2009
Posts: 2540

PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 12:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Yes, however until Emperor Mollari was printed there was literally zero point to using Prime Minister Mollari unless you were purging shadow marks for additional Diplomacy. Upgrading your ambassador to 6/6 with no abilities for 14 infuence is a terrible deal. When the PM was printed it was intentionally designed to go in a deck where you flirt with the shadows and then throw them all in the bin, which is pretty much unplayable. For one thing the Shadows were one of the strongest strategies in B5 after a few expansions, so just going Shadows was always a superior choice to dicking around for a few extra points of Diplomacy. But that was what happened in the show, so that was what you were forced to do.

When the Emperor was printed I think we were so ingrained in the "PM Mollari is unplayable" mindset that we just discounted him. Looking at it now I can see that you could start with Londo, get to 14 influence and upgade to PM, and then at some point upgrade to Emperor for the stat boosts and free Minister sponsoring. That still seems pretty unwieldy but at least there is something there.
_________________
Simplified Tome Armor. Tome item system and expanded Wish Economy rules.

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    The Gaming Den Forum Index -> In My Humble Opinion... All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum




Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group